When Joanna and Zachary were growing up without going to school, I had to fill out forms for the state about their education. In answer to a question about our number of school days, I said that if they were breathing they were learning, and if they died I would inform the state. We’re all still breathing and this spring has provided several lessons, not necessarily of my planning or choosing.
Robins have persisted in trying to build a nest on the top of the shelves in the entry where I keep some tools for quick access. The top shelf is about chin height and between the door into the barn and the one out into the parking area. Over and over I’ve been startled by a bird flying up close to my face as I hurried in or out. Dozens of times we’ve removed a muddy partial nest only to find another begun the next hour or next day. Zach put a small shelf under an overhang nearby and we tried moving some of the nest material there, but the robins didn’t take the hint. They haven’t rebuilt now for 3 days and I’m hoping they’ve found another spot they like, but they made me think about persistence and stubbornness. I remember times I’ve been discouraged when something I thought was a good idea just wasn’t moving forward and wonder what guidance I might have been missing.
I tend our herb and flower gardens and in spring I divide many of the perennials. Visitors who admire whatever is blooming through the seasons are invited to come in spring to get plant divisions. This year an Amish neighbor and a woman who found the farm through Facebook came for culinary and medicinal herbs. A man who came to buy four shiitake logs took various bee plants, and one of our Directors took plants for early spring bloom. Renee (see her article on page 4) helped us dig up plants at the farm to make a butterfly garden for Donna who has been admiring our gardens and enjoying the butterflies during her weekly visits over two years. When people offer to pay for the plants I tell them that I needed to divide plants to keep them productive and if no one wants the extras they are tossed into the ditch behind the mailbox. My Amish neighbor told me she’d been taught that plants grew better if you gave something for them, and I told her that I thought perennials had a lesson to teach about the importance of sharing, that left undivided they die out in the center. She ended up bringing us butter, sharing that was satisfying all around.
This spring has reminded me that planning well and working hard are no guarantee of success. Unexpected warmth in mid-winter is followed by a cool spring and last year’s drought by flooding and more rain to come. My schedule for breeding rabbits to have litters born after the cold and to coincide with lush spring growth worked well last spring. But this year we have just 2 litters of the 4 or 5 expected. The woodland wildflowers bloomed late and the trees leafed out early. A volunteer whose application looked good and who wanted to come for two and a half weeks in May was neither helpful nor congenial. I was tired and discouraged when he left after 4 days. I try to recognize what I can do and what must be left in God’s hands, remembering to savor the light, the many shades of new green, the surviving goat kid, the fleeting beauty of trout lilies, the first asparagus.
During the 16 years we’ve been trying to live an alternative to the consumer culture, that culture has become more all encompassing. The widening divisions between and within political parties, social classes and religions as well as the concern with image fostered by social media can leave me feeling discouraged and disconnected. Now, more than ever before, I am grateful for our practice of beginning each day in prayer. As Thomas Kelly reminds us, all we really can do for anyone is to bring them into the presence of God and leave them there. To do that we must keep returning to that presence ourselves, however many times we are distracted and stray. --by Lorraine